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Keywords:

  • bulimia nervosa;
  • eating disorders;
  • PET imaging;
  • dopamine;
  • addictions;
  • reward

Abstract

Objective:

Bulimia nervosa (BN) has been characterized as similar to an addiction, though the empirical support for this characterization is limited. This study utilized PET imaging to determine whether abnormalities in brain dopamine (DA) similar to those described in substance use disorders occur in BN.

Method:

PET imaging with [11C]raclopride, pre/post methylphenidate administration, to assess dopamine type 2 (D2) receptor binding (BPND) and striatal DA release (ΔBPND).

Results:

There was a trend toward lower D2 receptor BPND in two striatal subregions in the patient group when compared with the control group. DA release in the putamen in the patient group was significantly reduced and, overall, there was a trend toward a difference in striatal DA release. Striatal DA release was significantly associated with the frequency of binge eating.

Discussion:

These data suggest that BN is characterized by abnormalities in brain DA that resemble, in some ways, those described in addictive disorders. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.